Review: The Shadow Queen by Rebecca Dean
Author: Rebecca Dean
Publisher: Broadway Paperbacks
Published: August 14, 2012
arc, paperback, 424 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Summary (from Goodreads):
Two lovers. Two very different lives. One future together that will change history.
When debutante Wallis Simpson is growing up, she devotes her teenage daydreams to one man, the future King of England, Prince Edward. But it's Pamela Holtby, Wallis's aristocratic best friend, who mixes within the palace circle. Wallis's first marriage to a dashing young naval pilot is not what she dreamt of; he turns out to be a dominating bully of a man, who punishes her relentlessly. But her fated marriage does open a suprising door, to the world of Navy couriers – where navy wives are being used to transport messages around the world. This interesting turn of fate takes Wallis from the exuberant social scene in Washington to a China that is just emerging from civil war. Edward in the meantime is busy fulfilling his royal duties – and some extra-curricular ones involving married women. Until the day, just before he ascends the throne as Edward VIII, he is introduced to a very special married woman, Wallis Simpson.
There is something fascinating about royalty. What I knew about Wallis Simpson, before I read this novel, is that Edward VIII abdicated the throne in order to be with her, and she was a controversial historical figure.
The Shadow Queen by Rebecca Dean is a look at Wallis's life starting from childhood to meeting Edward VIII.
Before she was Wallis Simpson, she was Bessie Wallis. Her father died while she was young leaving her family destitute and having to rely on her uncle for financial support. This fact alone plagued her her entire life, and influenced her decisions. It was in her early childhood where Wallis met her long time friend and sometimes enemy, Pamela Holtby. A great deal of this book focuses on the friendship formed between the two girls. However after Pamela breaks Wallis's heart by cheating with her boyfriend, they go their separate ways. Wallis has a life filled with trials and tribulations. Even though Wallis makes several foolish choices, she is a survivor.
This is an interesting book to read. Dean mixes fact with fiction. Although I'm sure the timeline is the same, I think the author had to speculate a great deal on some of the more intimate details. There are many biographies written on Wallis, but unless you were a fly on her wall, there is no way to know what really happened. Dean does a good job filling in the blanks with plausible information. Although I enjoyed reading this book, I was a little disappointed that it ended just as Wallis and Edward met. I'm not sure if the author has another book planned to pick up where this one left off. I hope she does. This is a well-written and interesting book on the early life of Wallis Simpson. The Shadow Queen is definitely a book worth reading.